This is the first draft which I have really paid attention to ahead of time, thanks mainly to the people on this board. You all have initiated me into true fanhood. Two years ago I couldn't name a non-skill-position even on my favorite team (the Cowboys). Now I can recite Chia's big board from memory.
What did I learn, as a newcomer to the draft speculation-and-then-reality? I'll focus on the first round, because the names still swirl in my head after that.
1. Because the boards differ, you can get value while trading down. People were afraid we might not get Barron at 14, and they were right. But we would have had our pick of either DeCastro or Ingram, even if we'd traded down a few spots--and they were higher on most boards I saw (such as Chia's). The other way of putting this is not to fixate on a single player; because someone you had ranked even higher might still be around.
2. Draft to the strength of this year's class. I don't think teams are stupid, and I don't think they undervalue pass rushers. But they didn't take rushers as the first defensive players off the board.
3. If you think a guy is too good to believe in the 2nd or 3rd round, he might be. All along I've been salivating at mocks that show Dallas having a shot at Irvin in the 2nd round, 3rd round--shoot, one mock had us taking him in the 5th! Well guess what: he didn't last that long. Someone else saw what I saw.
4. Mocking a draft without trades is kind of pointless. I think the people who actually picked at their assigned spot were the minority, and certainly the moving around had a huge impact on any need-based draft predictions.
5. In the end you've got to believe in your players. Giving up a 2nd for Clayborne could hurt us--but not if he's the Pro-bowl player that Dallas believes he is. Irvin was a reach--but not if he ends up developing into the next Ware. Ingram is the best rusher in this draft--but not to all the GMs who passed on him. That's how the game plays out.
What do I see as our future? I'm concerned about Center and I won't breathe easy until we buttress our D-line. We need one more guy competing for the 3rd WR spot, and another guy behind Phillips as TE. But with all of that, I wonder if fixing the most glaring problems in our team from last year (the secondary, by a mile) will tip us over the edge. We lost a lot of close games last year, that this year we win. If people stay healthy. If the prospects keep developing.
Meanwhile, I'm already interested in next year. Maybe next summer we'll splash on a young rusher who fits our scheme. Maybe next draft will get us that elite safety that Mark Barron might have been.